Although the first school in Mesa started in 1879, few children went to school past the age of 12 or 13. Mesa didn’t start a high school class until 1899. They held the class in the upstairs of the Old North School. Mesa Union High School District was established on December 26, 1907 and construction on a new school began after the new year started. It was completed in time for the graduation ceremonies of 12 graduates of the class of 1909.
The school consisted of a large block structure (Old Main) that contained twelve rooms and a small main floor auditorium. Later, renovations were made to expand the building and even later to add more buildings to the school campus. Mesa High was the only high school in Mesa for almost 60 years. In its beginning, it served students from all over the east valley including Gilbert and Higley communities.
In 1911, only two years after the school was built, the Mesa community was honored by having the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt speak to the people of Mesa from the steps of the Old Main. President Roosevelt stopped in Mesa on his way to visit the Roosevelt Dam which had recently been completed.
Mesa High’s motto carries a special meaning that has united students for over 80 years. “Carry On” were the last words spoken by Zedo Ishikawa, a beloved 17 year old senior and high school football star who accidentally shot himself with his rifle when he tried to separate two fighting dogs. Before he died he told his father to tell the coach and the boys to “carry on” with the upcoming football game against Gilbert High.
Soon the entire school adopted the motto. The music teacher and an English teacher wrote a song that captured the feelings of tradition and honor felt by the students. This became the Mesa High alma mater and still motivates and inspires Mesa High students today. Every year during the opening of the football season, Mesa High football players pay honor to Zedo Ishikawa by visiting his grave site in the City of Mesa Cemetery. While there, they clean the cemetery and gather around Ishikawa’s grave stone to sing the alma mater "Carry On." In the past few years other students, who are not on the football team, have started joining in the tradition. In 2017 there were approximately 350-400 students who participated.
On October 1, 1967 a fire started in a science room. The fire eventually consumed the entire Old Main building. With the help of nearby churches, classes resumed until a new Mesa High campus was built on East Southern Avenue. The new school was completed in 1972. Today the original columns from the Old Main still stand on Center street as a reminder of the beautiful building that was loved by so many Mesa High students.